Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Movie Review: Vampires vs. The Bronx

The weirdest aspect of Vampires vs. The Bronx might be that it's essentially a throwback '80s comedy/horror/adventure flick that doesn't appear to be rooted in '80s nostalgia. The underlying structure is there - it's a story about a group of kids facing a supernatural threat no one else believes in, so it's up to them to face their fears and save their home. Tonally, it's reminiscent of movies like Monster Squad and Gremlins: it gets dark at times, but this is still ultimately kid-friendly (at least for older kids).

But despite essentially being an updated spin on Lost Boys, its references skew more towards '90s horror. The movie directly references Blade (very directly - it's a plot point and recurring gag), and the monster designs seem to be primarily based on Buffy. On top of that, I couldn't shake the feeling this probably wouldn't have been greenlit without the success of Stranger Things.

In other words, Vampires vs. The Bronx is essentially 3rd or 4th generation '80s nostalgia, which I suppose is appropriate since the '80s movies in question were themselves based in nostalgia for monster movies of the '50s and '60s, which in turn...

I know none of that tells you anything about the quality of the movie, but I haven't got a lot to say in that regard, other than assuring you this movie is, in fact, good.

Okay, I probably should have opened with that. Vampires vs. The Bronx is a funny, clever movie that's mildly scary in a PG sort of way. The protagonists are likeable, the villains are interesting, and it actually offers a unique spin on the underlying mythology. Vampires have always represented old money and customs - incorporating that into a story about gentrification is a natural evolution.

The movie's one main flaw is its budget isn't quite sufficient for the story they want to tell. This is one of those movies where it feels like there are only forty or so residents in what's supposed to be a large community. Likewise, without giving too much away, the ending really wanted to be bigger. There's a significant moment towards the end of the movie where the focus shifts from the protagonists to the entire neighborhood, and it really would have helped if there were a few dozen more vampires and another few minutes of fighting.

This isn't just a spectacle thing - thematically, we really needed some minor characters to get hero moments instead of just... being there.

Even with an underwhelming finale, the movie was still a ton of fun and well worth your time. Still, I wish the investors had been willing to pump a little more cash into this project, because it wouldn't have taken much to nudge this from "really good genre flick" to "shortlist for one of the best installments in this sub-genre ever made." The script and acting were there - it just needed a little extra cash. 

If you've got a Netflix subscription, you can see for yourself - it's streaming now.

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